Hello – We’re 2.5 weeks in here – together but apart. It’s heartening to see the lengths folks are going to make music together. I’ve seen virtual open-mics, solo live streams, virtual duets, and more conversations about music and life and mental health than I usually see in a year. Life is challenging, but it’s easier with a great community.
On that note, here is something Zakk wrote on Facebook that hit particularly well for me:
If I can offer any perspective: Don’t be hard on yourself for not being as productive/creative as you THINK you should be with so much time off. In February I was able to spend an entire month in Florida to work on whatever I wanted in the most ideal of circumstances and even then I would get dark about not doing as much as I thought I could have. Fast forward and the entire world is facing a crisis that has affected our basic way of life. We are not defined by our artistic output in this time. Focus on your basic needs, mental health, and being supportive to those who need it.
Life is wild. Be good to yourself and your people.
The Greater Columbus Arts Council relief grant is currently closed (out of money) but is looking for donations. Check the link for info as it comes out.
GCAC Relief Info
Lisa Cave and Stephanie Ewen have raised over $10,000 to help support Columbus Artists. Donate HERE to help continue their efforts!
Jazz Arts Group has announced a new Live Stream series that can be found at the Jazz Academy facebook page (HERE). This series will feature a weekly conversation with Byron Stripling (last week’s HERE) as well as a variety of other interviews and features with Columbus Jazz Orchestra members.
TONIGHT at 6:30 – CJO Saxophone section roundtable (CHECK IT OUT).
Additionally, Jazz Arts Group, like many arts organizations, is currently reeling from the concert cancellations from the last month, and the ones upcoming. If you’re feeling particularly charitable, please considering donating to the JAG Emergency Fund.
Ellis Marsalis, father of the first family of Jazz, passed away at the age of 85. His son Wynton gave a lovely and honest tribute to this great titan of jazz:
My daddy passed away last night. We now join the worldwide family who are mourning grandfathers and grandmothers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers— kinfolk, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and others.
What can one possibly say about loss in a time when there are many people losing folks that mean so much to them? One of my friends lost both her mother AND father just last week. We all grieve and experience things differently, and I’m sure each of my five brothers are feeling and dealing in their own way.
My daddy was a humble man with a lyrical sound that captured the spirit of place–New Orleans, the Crescent City, The Big Easy, the Curve. He was a stone-cold believer without extravagant tastes.
Like many parents, he sacrificed for us and made so much possible. Not only material things, but things of substance and beauty like the ability to hear complicated music and to read books; to see and to contemplate art; to be philosophical and kind, but to also understand that a time and place may require a pugilistic-minded expression of ignorance.
His example for all of us who were his students (a big extended family from everywhere), showed us to be patient and to want to learn and to respect teaching and thinking and to embrace the joy of seriousness. He taught us that you could be conscious and stand your ground with an opinion rooted ‘in something’ even if it was overwhelmingly unfashionable. And that if it mattered to someone, it mattered.
I haven’t cried because the pain is so deep….it doesn’t even hurt. He was absolutely my man. He knew how much I loved him, and I knew he loved me (though he was not given to any type of demonstrative expression of it). As a boy, I followed him on so many underpopulated gigs in unglamorous places, and there, in the passing years, learned what it meant to believe in the substance of a fundamental idea whose only verification was your belief.
I only ever wanted to do better things to impress HIM. He was my North Star and the only opinion that really deep down mattered to me was his because I grew up seeing how much he struggled and sacrificed to represent and teach vital human values that floated far above the stifling segregation and prejudice that defined his youth but, strangely enough, also imbued his art with an even more pungent and biting accuracy.
But for all of that, I guess he was like all of us; he did the best he could, did great things, had blind spots and made mistakes, fought with his spouse, had problems paying bills, worried about his kids and other people’s, rooted for losing teams, loved gumbo and red beans, and my momma’s pecan pie. But unlike a healthy portion of us, he really didn’t complain about stuff. No matter how bad it was.
A most fair-minded, large-spirited, generous, philanthropic (with whatever he had), open-minded person is gone. Ironically, when we spoke just 5 or 6 days ago about this precarious moment in the world and the many warnings he received ‘to be careful, because it wasn’t his time to pass from COVID’, he told me,” Man, I don’t determine the time. A lot of people are losing loved ones. Yours will be no more painful or significant than anybody else’s”.
That was him, “in a nutshell”, (as he would say before talking for another 15 minutes without pause).
In that conversation, we didn’t know that we were prophesying. But he went out soon after as he lived—-without complaint or complication. The nurse asked him, “Are you breathing ok?” as the oxygen was being steadily increased from 3 to 8, to too late, he replied, ”Yeah. I’m fine.”
For me, there is no sorrow only joy. He went on down the Good Kings Highway as was his way, a jazz man, “with grace and gratitude.”
And I am grateful to have known him.
Check out Ellis at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2012
As Phil Sees It // Phil Maneri
Virus Vacation Week 2
Being locked away from each other, compelled to spend time either in solitary or with roommates or close family has put a pause on so many old habits. We can’t help but reflect on what is necessary and what is frivolous. We have jettisoned so much from our daily view that many of these things won’t come back, and if they do, they won’t look like they did before.
Like for the moment, the band is dead.
Watching music artists’ live casts over the last two weeks I’m noticing they are mostly solo endeavors. They have to be. Mostly you see singer songwriters or people playing acoustic guitar/piano versions of popular songs. Here and there, families are lucky enough to create a small ensemble but for the most part, it’s single players one step removed from their practice room, busking for tips online. This is good thing and must continue. They reflect our solitary existence for the moment. (and please tip them generously btw, they are getting their asses kicked).
But what about the support people? Sidemen, to use the vernacular. Like the bartender or the hair stylist, these are social professions. They are dead in the water right now. The drummer, the bassist, the horn players; these folks don’t hold your attention solo on Facebook live for very long, but without them the ensembles that have created the greatest music in jazz don’t happen.
Yes the stars are always needed to put names on marquees, butts in seats, sell recordings. But there are so many others that contribute to make that star shine as bright as they do. Face it, a steady diet of solo performers ain’t gonna cut it. I know when I reviewed the entire ECM catalog over the last several years I listened to many solo performer records – more than you would ever hear from American major labels – and even so it’s a tiny percentage of ECM releases. With a couple exceptions I don’t go back and listen to them more than once myself.
One of the things that makes Jazz so compelling, and has from the beginning as African music that gestated in New Orleans, is that Jazz is fundamentally a conversation. That conversation requires at least two participants. Jazz is a communal music. It’s at its best when the conversation percolates from several different viewpoints. Miles Davis great quintets, Bill Evans Trio with Scott Lafaro and Paul Motian; these ensembles communicated without words at a very high level, almost telepathically. And we are still mesmerized.
At the moment our community is forced to stay apart to quell this bug, and in its absence jazz looses its greatest strength. Communal interplay, conversation, relationships between people improvised and spontaneous, that create a sum far greater than any one of the parts.
So when the doors fly open and the wheels hit the ground running after this brief age of shut ins, remember that Jazz is not just about W.C. Handy or Miles Davis, it’s about the tribe. It’s about the interplay that lifts us all way past where we could go alone. Hear the conversation. Remember that the swirl of emotional complexity fascinating us every day has its roots in the interaction between people. Celebrate the group. Get the band back together.
Maybe you could even throw in a tip.
Check out Phil LIVE in quarantine (and out), every Wednesday at 7:00PM
Forward Motion //
Waves de Aché
by Frankie Wantuch
Waves de Aché is one of Columbus’s top latin jazz groups. The formation of this group organically came to fruition when bassist, Will Strickler, was hosting a residency at Columbus staple jazz venue, Dick’s Den. One of Strickler’s residency’s showcased latin jazz, and the show involved several local musicians. After an exciting evening, drummer and percussionist, Max Marsillo, mentioned to Strickler that they should keep this up. Strickler said he had the intention of keeping this it going. A few months later, the first official Waves de Aché gig was held at The Refectory in 2017.
The Santorian language describes “aché” as the primordial, and mystical energy that exists in the universe. Put this together with “waves,” and you get the Spanglish translation: “waves of good energy.” While deeply rooted in the tradition of jazz and latin music, Waves de Aché is always pushing forward to the future, hence the name of the group, and the name of their debut album Forward Motion.
Released in 2019, Forward Motion features the core members of the band, Will Strickler (bass), Ben Maloney (piano), Zach Compston (drums), and Max Marsillo (percussion), along with the horn section, featuring Ben Crowder (trombone), Tommy Lehman (trumpet), and Kevin O’Neil (saxophone). The album was recorded by Keith Hanlon at Musicol.
Groove is the underlying foundation that gives this album continuous momentum. When talking to members Strickler, Maloney, and Marsillo, it was a mutual consensus that they wanted the album to push themselves creatively and musically. The focus when writing these tunes came down to staying open and refusing to be stagnant.
The first song on the album, Bird from the Night, is introduced with a luscious improvised cadenza by pianist, Ben Maloney. When the groove is finally established, the waves of good energy emerge. You can’t help but smile when listening to this stuff! Interestingly enough, Bird from the Night, composed by Marsillo, is his take on Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne No. 2 Op. 9 in E-flat Major. The tune bridges the two worlds of Romantic piano music and latin jazz through harmonic language.
N.F.G., aka, No Fancy Gargoyles, came to be when Strickler decided to enter a young jazz composer competition. According to Strickler, this tune has taken many different shapes and arrangements. At the tail end of the tune, Strickler references Poncho Sanchez’s, Yesterday with the background lines proceeding the percussion solo. Its overall feel is light and energetic.
Cats Paw is significantly different from the first two tunes, but still stays true to the Waves way of business. It’s minor sound and winding horn lines makes for a playful and mischievous tune. It’s almost as if the saxophone and trumpet are playing a game of ‘catch me if you can.’ Marsillo’s tune is inspired by Dafnis Prieto’s, About the Monks, and accentuates the use of call and response between ensemble and horns.
The tune In Search Of is the slowest of all the songs on the album. The horns provide a smooth blanket of sound, while the rhythm section interjects with tasteful fills and hints of a guaguanco groove. Strickler was inspired by Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and how the tune is a blues in disguise.
The nature of Break Down the Gates stems from the music that Strickler, Maloney, and Marsillo grew up listening to, heavy rock n’ roll. Its edgy and bombastic nature serves as a palate cleanser from the previous tune, In Search Of. Strickler wrote this tune with the harmonic influences of John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner in mind.
The Difference is (Night & Day) is a contrafact of Cole Porter’s Night and Day. Strickler’s inspiration for the name of the tune is inspired by the event of writing for the band. The difference of listening to what is written in Sibelius and what it sounds like with actual musicians, is night and day. Though the tune is latin in nature, it showcases some blues elements.
Stay On It is a tune that started off as an exercise in changes for Maloney. The tune is heavily influenced by Chick Corea’s Windows, and is a feature for the whole rhythm section. The tune open’s with an ostinato that continuously drives the tune forward. The tune sounds sweet, but has rapidly changing chords underneath the longer flowing lines, hence the name Stay On It, don’t get lost in the changes.
The final tune of the album, Unending Wonder starts similarly to the way the album begins from the very start, with a cadenza-like duet between piano and trumpet. This passionate and soulful intro swiftly transitions into a groovy samba, back-beat feel. Strickler’s inspiration for this tune comes from the Appalachian hymn What Wondrous Love Is This. The driving force of this tune comes from the intensity of the rhythm section, and the fiery solos heard in piano, trombone, and drums. The outro to this tune can be described as one big celebration.
Coming up for Waves de Aché: their sophomore album, which is projected to be released in 2020. Their second album will be utilizing the talent of Columbus musicians, Devin copfer, vocalist, Zakk Jones, guitar, and Eric Rollin, rapper. Waves wants to infuse their sound of modern and latin jazz, with vocals, and r&b, and hip hop on the upcoming album. One thing that Waves de Aché believes in is breaking boundaries. If you believe in boundaries, you become bound by them.
What’re You Spinning // Alex Burgoyne
Arthur Blythe is great and this album hasn’t left my standard rotation since I found it. I can’t get over how free and fun and ferocious his playing is, and how good the band sounds. With Arthur’s saxophone, the band is flute, tuba, guitar, bass, drums, and additional percussion. It is wild and energetic and if you’ve heard someone play and you thought to yourself, “What is the historical context for this irrational behavior,” this album is perhaps an answer.
Go listen to the album in full, complete with two sides of two songs apiece. I double-dog dare you.
Also, not for nothing, this is from 1979!